Allies Aggressive in Fight Against Al Qaeda, Taliban
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 5, 2002 U.S., Afghan and coalition personnel are attacking Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists in the Shahi Khot region of Afghanistan from the air and ground, Defense Department officials said March 5.
Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke characterized the action, dubbed Operation Anaconda, as "very aggressive and forward-leaning."
At the same afternoon press conference, Joint Staff briefer Air Force Brig. Gen. John Rosa said the operation continues and, from the outset, has been a deliberate attack. He said the U.S., Afghan and coalition forces have maintained the initiative and the action "is on our terms and our pace."
Rosa said heavy bombing softened up the enemy in certain points, but that much work remains. Since the operation began early March 2 Afghan time, coalition forces have dropped more than 450 bombs using a mix of long-range bombers and tactical aircraft. Rosa said AC-130 gunships and A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft are providing close-air support.
"The biggest thing that's changed, not to be flip, is that we've killed a lot of (Al Qaeda and Taliban)," Rosa said. "They are not roaming around freely like they were before. They're dug in, they're hunkered down. We've got simultaneous attacks at times with air and ground."
Eight American service members have died since the operation started March 2, with 40 wounded. Eighteen of the wounded were treated and returned to duty.
Rosa said U.S. forces entered one of the cave complexes the Al Qaeda fighters used. They found mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms and ammunition. "At a different location, they found more weapons as well as foreign drivers licenses and foreign passports," he said.
Rosa and Clarke also gave further details of the helicopter incidents in which seven service members died. At approximately 5:30 p.m. EST March 3, an MH-47 helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade at a landing zone while attempting to insert special operations forces. "It was able to lift off, but landed again some distance away after experiencing mechanical problems," Rosa said. As it was taking off from the first LZ, an individual fell off the chopper.
Soon after, a second helicopter landed and picked up the passengers and crew of the first helicopter. That helicopter inserted the special operations forces team back at the first LZ.
Another MH-47 helicopter was hit March 3 at 9 p.m. EST on a mission to insert special operations forces near the site of the first incident. "It was hit by what we believe was machine-gun fire and a rocket- propelled grenade. The helicopter either crash-landed or experienced a hard landing," Rosa said. Once on the ground, the personnel got out of the chopper and exchanged fire with the enemy. A helicopter flying as teammate to the downed craft landed troops. Six persons from these helicopters died in the fight.
Killed in the incidents were: Army -- Sgt. Bradley S. Crose, 27, of Orange Park, Fla.; Spc. Marc A. Anderson, 30, Brandon, Fla.; and Pfc. Matthew A. Commons, 21, Boulder City, Nev.; Sgt. Philip J. Svitak, 31, Joplin, Mo.; Navy -- Petty Officer 1st class Neil C. Roberts, 32, Woodland, Calif.; and Air Force Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman, 36, Waco, Texas, and Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham, 26, Camarillo, Calif.